Saturday, May 26, 2012

Easy as (Peanut Butter Cup) Pie

My mother's nuts.  Seriously.  I think even she would agree.  Although she's mellowed in recent years, she was especially crazy back in the day, and was somehow convinced I'd manage to burn the house down should I get near a kitchen appliance of any sort.  I think I was fifteen before I was allowed to make my own toast.

I loved to cook even without kitchen privileges though, and it really only helped to make me more creative.  Thanks, Mom!  This easy peanut butter cup pie was a favorite of mine back when I was eight or nine, and it still hasn't lost it's appeal.  It only takes a few ingredients, doesn't require baking (although we sometimes make our own graham cracker crust now, it works just as well with a pre-made crust from the grocery store), and is just perfect for a hot (almost) summer's day.

Read on for directions to heaven in pie form.

Here's what you'll need:

Graham Cracker Crust
about 10 chocolate graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/3 cup butter, melted

Peanut Butter Filling
8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup whipped topping
about 1/2 cup peanut butter cups, chopped

We chose to make our own graham cracker crust (it's slightly cheaper and we are two broke gals), and why use regular graham crackers if chocolate's an option?  We put about 10 crackers in a sealed Ziploc and mashed them up with a rolling pin until they were basically just crumbs, and then dumped the crumbs into a mixing bowl.

We added 1/4 cup of sugar, and a little more than 1/4 cup of melted butter.  I would recommend starting with 1/4 cup (that's half a stick), stirring it in, and then adding a little at a time until it's the right consistency.  You'll want all of the crumbs to be moistened, but it'll still feel pretty crumbly.

We dumped the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and patted them down on the bottom and up the sides until they formed a firm layer about 1/4 inch think.  I sprayed non-stick cooking spray on my fingers so the crumbs would stick to the plate and not me.

We popped the crust into a 375 degree oven for about ten minutes, and then let it cool completely on a wire rack before filling it.

Oh, yes.  The filling.  This is where it really gets good.  Start with an 8 ounce package of cream cheese.  It should be soft before you begin working with it, and the best way to accomplish this is probably to let it sit out on the counter for a half hour or so before you need it.  If you're like me and don't think ahead, you can get away with softening it in the microwave.  Just put it in a bowl and nuke it for 15 seconds or so at a time until you can easily press your fingers into it, but it's not yet melting into the bowl.

Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of peanut butter to the bowl with the softened cream cheese.  Feel free to add a little extra peanut butter if you're the type who would appreciate a stronger flavor.  Using a hand mixer, blend the three ingredients until it's an even, creamy consistency.  (If you're eight and your mom is crazy, go at it with a spoon.  It may take awhile, but you'll get there eventually.)

Add about one cup of Cool Whip or the whipped topping of your choice to the mixture and fold it in using a spoon or a spatula.  It may not look like much in the bowl, but it fills the pie crust quite nicely.

Finally, chop up some peanut butter cups and fold them into the mixture as well.  We used about 1/2 cup.  If you'd like to experiment, I bet Reese's Pieces or any other peanut buttery candy would be great here, too.

Pour the mixture into the completely cooled crust and spread it out until it covers the whole crust evenly.  Be careful to work slowly and try not to move the mixture too much so you don't pull up the graham cracker crumbs from the crust.  Garnish the top with more chopped peanut butter cups if you'd like (we do!), and apply additional whipped topping liberally immediately before serving.

Let the pie chill in the fridge for an hour or two before you dig in (I know it's hard, but trust me, it's worth it).  It also freezes well, so you can make it ahead and defrost it when you have the kind of day that just requires peanut butter pie.  I always liked the pie only semi-defrosted so it has sort of an ice cream consistency, and that's especially delicious on a hot day.


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